The work of marriage is compromise and connection. No one is immune to this and it will last the life of the marriage. This is the wonderful and difficult struggle that every marriage goes through, it is normal. You can create a happy, fulfilling marriage by working and creating connection and reducing conflict. The research of Dr John Gottman has identified three things that will create connection in marriage. Here are some quick comments about the three areas, but go to the links to read a more detailed description.
The primary thing that couples are always building and protecting is the strength of their emotional connection. Shared experiences together along with creating positive affirmation are the first steps to building emotional connection. The next step is to find friends and environments that support your marriage and to understand that real happiness is up to you.
“We do not quit playing because we grow old, we grow old because we quit playing.” Oliver Wendell Homes
Every couple needs to play. This is how many couples connect. I know this may sound superficial, but when you begin to struggle with conflict or communication, take the time to create the soil that will bring change by playing and connecting first. Before you go to the table to talk, go to the sofa and play first. You have to play many problems away before you try to talk them through. Many conflicts will shrink if you take the time to connect and play.
Over the years my wife and I have learned that when we seem to misunderstand each other and start to struggle it is because we have stopped playing. Life and stress pulls us apart, the results are that we struggle with differences that in the long run just don’t matter.
The core of connection is built around shared experiences where you laugh, play, encourage, affirm and non-sexually touch. Here are several related posts – 3 Ways to Help Grow the Emotional Bond in Marriage; 10 Things That Can Change Your Marriage This Year
Express interest, empathy and concern about what is happening in your partner’s world. Everyday we consciously and unconsciously respond, or fail to respond, to our partners request for connection. These requests can be as simple as asking, “How was your day?” Learn to ask questions that show you are interested in their day-to-day life. The sad thing is we fail to respond to their question or attempts to connect. Over time if you fail to respond or show interest it can create serious damage to the relationship. Real connection is possible when you ask open-ended questions about your partner’s internal world of thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears.
One of the pitfalls in communication and conflict is criticism or blame. Learn to focus on the need instead of the criticism. Instead of saying, “You never help me with the house work house,” learn to state what you do need by saying, “Can we work together to clean the house, I would really appreciate some help.” Avoid using statements like “You never…” or “You always…” The goal is to remain positive in conflict by listening to your partner without criticizing, becoming defensive, shutting down, or acting superior. Learn to handle conflict with mutual respect, humor, interest, openness while acknowledging your partner’s ideas and feelings.
Marriage is so much more than a license or a ceremony. It is a journey together. It is a life spent walking with each other growing with God. The problem is that discouragement, challenges and life get in the way of enjoying the journey. I have found that we need to step back sometimes and re-examine hope. Hope is a confident expectation for something, but hope still has to have a foundation. The foundation of belief can create the soil to grow hope. Here are three things that can strengthen the foundation of your hope in a rich journey with your mate.
Most couples are looking for the big things that will create change and enjoyment, but it is usually the small things that build and create connection. A small, sweet gesture can go a long way toward making your spouse feel loved. When we feel loved it makes us happy and creates a desire to reciprocate kindness toward our spouse. Here are five small things that you can do daily that will help you grow toward each other.
- Bring coffee or breakfast in bed – The principle is – severe each other. You may not have the opportunity to bring something to them in bed, but you can serve them at night or at a meal. I am convinced that Jesus was right – the greatest is the servant.
- Go to bed at the same time, even if you don’t stay there – When one of you goes to bed, the other one climbs into bed to cuddle for a few moments. Even if one of you gets up afterward, it’s a way to always connect after a long day.
- Hold hands – A recent study showed that holding hands lessened stress. Take the time the time to show affection, interest and priority. Hold hands in the car, as you walk into the store or as you are watching TV together. The wonderful connection of touch is so vital.
- Ask Questions – I know this sounds odd, but couples need a playful way to understand each others hopes, joys and struggles. Learn to ask playful questions that create connection. The key is playful. You are not trying to interrogate just learn from each other and laugh. Here are a couple examples, but don’t stop with these, try to ask more.
- What is your favorite outfit?
- If you could have a meal with anyone past or present, who would it be?
- What is your favorite time of day for lovemaking?
- Anything else that is playful and helps you to understand each better
- Remember to say thank you – I know this seems small and simple but you would be surprised at how often couples fail to show appreciation. Take the time to give each other positive recognition and gratitude.
Each day look for the small things that you can do each day to show attention, affection and approval.
Quick tip – you don’t need to agree with your spouse in order to understand them or to validate their feelings.
You may not always agree, but you have to try understand the intended meaning of their words and heart. Take the time to understand what they are feeling and thinking. This means time spent talking and asking questions before you defend your view. The journey of understanding your mate is vital to staying connected to each other. Take the time and effort to grasp what is important in their heart. If it means enough for them to argue or disagree with you, then it should mean enough for you to try to understand them. You may not agree but you can emphatically understand.
- Keep A Community Around You – Your friends and family are vital to the health of your relationships. The community around you is so important that couples that elope are 12.5 times more likely to divorce than couples that have 200 or more people at their wedding. I think the significance of this research is that we need a community to make life and marriage better. We are designed to live in relationship with people. The “one another” info graphic below gives a good picture on how we are to live with one another.
- Protect Trust A All Cost – Building and creating trust in any relationship is a critical requirement. Relationships are built on the belief that people are going to do what they say and the mean what they say. Trust is the foundation that holds a marriage up. We tell each other what is important and what is expected to create love and respect. From this place of trust we give each other our thoughts and feelings. If you break this agreement and deceive each other problems are created. It is possible to create trust again with effort over time. Partners have to understand the importance of honoring an agreement, and the importance of protecting, or the relationship with deteriorate over time.
Here are some posts from the past with ideas to help. The ideas and topics will help you with what I think are the two main components of marriage: compromise and connection.
- 10 Things That Can Change Your Marriage This Year
- 5 Keys to a Happy Wife….. Maybe a Happy Life
- Can We Talk? – 5 Tips to Improve Communication and Connection
- Is it Possible to Change a Struggling Marriage?
- 25 Tips for the Young Wife…(well I guess any Wife)!
- 25 Tips for the Young Husband…(well I guess any husband)!
The emotional connection that a couple has is the glue of the relationship. When things start to come unglued it is the strength of the emotional connection that keeps it together. As a couple you have to create experiences that allow you to strengthen that connection and build trust. This trust is developed and maintained with a rhythm of experiences you have together.
When life seems stressful our lives and relationships get out of rhythm. Life begins to get to busy, things like kids, jobs, aging parents and more can change the rhythm of the emotional connection. Here are three ways every couple can strengthen their emotional bond.